Saturday January 23rd :- I met
Geoff, Bob & Carol at Malaga Airport on time and soon enough we were
heading along the motorway towards Fuente de Piedra. Unfortunately the
gorgeous sunshine of the previous day had been replaced by dark clouds
and rain, which got steadily worse as we got inland. By the time we
reached the Lagunas de Fuente de Piedra it was pretty bleak but there
were some bright spots, which made things look promising, so we wnet for
an early lunch at a local cafe. By the time we had finished the rain
had stopped but it still looked threatening however we drove around the
side of the lake looking for the large flamingo flock. At the car park
we found 100+ Common Cranes in the fields, plus 2 Sardinian Warblers, Crested Larks, Goldfinches, Spotless Starlings and an Iberian Hare and lots of Rabbits. We walked to the watchpoint and set up our 'scopes' and found a good number of Greater Flamingos but not the hoped for Lesser Flamingo, which I had seen the day before. Also here we found Grey
Herons, Cattle Egrets, Shoveler, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Black winged
Stilts, Lapwings, Black headed & Lesser Black backed Gulls.
So we decided to try the second viewpoint but by now the rains had
started again however we persevered. Unfortunately by the time we got
there it was dire and very difficult to make anything out on the lagoon
despite seeing that there were clearly more flamigos in view. So we
abandoned our quest and set off for the Sierra de Andujar since it was
still a good 2 hour journey from Fuente de Piedra. En-route we had some
success with Bob seeing a small group of Golden Plover, along with a flock of Shelduck, Common Buzzards, Kestrels and a Corn Bunting. The 'bird of the day' though did go to a Black shouldered Kite I saw as we sped along the motorway, so we turned round at the next
junction and got very good views of this gorgeous raptor from the side
of the road. Eventually (after a grocery stop) we got to the Los Pinos
Hotel complex in the heart of the Sierra de Andujar and the weather
hadn't improved much. So it was decided we would have a relax around the
grounds instead of trying to get to the Lynx watchpoint before dusk.
This brief walk was quite productive with lots of Iberian Magpies, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martins, Chaffinches, Serins, Crested, Great & Blue Tits. That evening we enjoyed a fabulous meal in the restaurant and discussed our chances of seeing a Lynx the next day.
Sunday January 24th :- We set
off in anticipation after breakfast and drove up through El Escoriales
and then on to the road to the Jandula Reservoir. On the way we saw our
first Red & Fallow Deer plus a couple of Mistle Thrushes, a nice flock of Iberian Magpies and lots of Chaffinches.
At the watchpoint (and being a weekend) there were plenty of watchers
gathered including several people I knew from previous visits. As I was
talking to a Spanish couple I knew, Marta said she had found an Iberian Lynx and the usual panick ensued. Bob and I were lucky enough to get a
sighting through the telescope but Geoff & Carol had been away
looking from another area and sadly missed it. However we knew there was
one around and soon after the same individual was refound and great
scope views were had by all as it made it's way slowly up the hill and
out of sight. It had been a dream start to the short break a very good
Lynx sighting within the first hour!. The rest of the morning and most
of the afternoon we spent in this area diligently searching for another
Lynx but without success, however we did get some marvellous views of Spanish Imperial & Golden Eagles. At one point we had an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle & immature Golden Eagle, chasing each other through a group of Black & Griffon Vultures. Other things of interest included more Red & Fallow Deer, several Iberian Green Woodpeckers, Crested, Long tailed, Great & Blue Tits, Woodlark, Firecrest and Red billed Choughs.
Mid -afternoon we decided to have a change of scenery and stretch the
legs so we continued down the track to the reservoir wall where we
wandered around looking for a Wallcreeper that had been seen there a
week or so previously. Sadly there was no sign of the Wallcreeper but we
did find a pair of Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, Grey Wagtail, Black Redstarts, Cormorant, Grey Heron and more (this time adult) Spanish Imperial & Golden Eagles.
We then drove back to the spot for another look to see if we could
see any more Lynx, and gave ourselves till 5pm as it was now getting
quite cold. Incredibly just as we were about to leave Geoff found an Iberian Lynx cross the path he was fortunately watching, which he saw for about 10
seconds before disappearing out of sight. Brilliant - we continued to
watch to see if it re-appeared for several minutes and again we got
ready to leave, only to be called back by the only remaining Spaniards
as they had found another (different) big male Lynx on the path. We got incredibly good views of this animal through the
telescope as it padded along the track scent marking at certain points.
Geoff even managed to get some video footage which can be seen here. It had been an incredible day with 3 Iberian Lynxes, 5 Spanish Imperial Eagles, 3 Golden Eagles, 100+ Griffon Vultures & 20+ Black Vultures.
Monday January 25th :- A
slightly disappointing day compared to the previous one but it would
have been hard to compete with the day before's experiences. Everyone
wanted more Lynx sightings so it made sense to do the same thing as the
day before, which is exactly what we did. However today we didn't get
any views of a Lynx dispite careful searching but during the course for
the day we did see - a single Moufflon (wild mountain sheep), Red
& Fallow Deer, Imperial Spanish Eagle, Golden Eagle, Black
Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Little Owl, Blue Rock
Thrush, Hoopoe, Mistle & Song Thrush, Sardinian & Dartford
Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Iberian Magpie, Red billed Chough and around the hotel we saw Crossbill, Hawfinch, Serin, Crested Tit plus the commoner woodland species. That night during the excellent 4
course evening meal we met up with a group of Spanish Lynx watchers and
they told us that they had seen an Iberian Lynx where we had been, just
as the light was fading.
Tuesday January 26th :- Today
was a little misty and some light rain but we persevered again with the
same viewpoint near El Escoriales. We had discused a 'game plan' for the
day trying to maximise our chances of seeing a Lynx and also seeing
some new areas. I decided since the Spanish group had seena Lynx that
evening there was a reasonable chance of it being still around the same
place the next morning. So a little earlier than usual we left for the
original watching site. About one hour into the search we had found a
couple of Moufflon and lots of Red Deer bet then Carol spied an Iberian Lynx on the hillside but sadly it soon disappeared with only Geoff managing
to get a look at it. So we concentrated our efforts on that area and
half an hour later Bob refound it at the top of the hill sat on a rock.
We all managed to get pretty good telescope views before the attendant Magpies forced it to move out of sight. Our plan had worked!. Near lunchtime we
returned to the hotel for lunch and a short break while the weather
improved. After this we headed out to another Lynx & Otter watching
site along the River Jandula but the recent rains had swelled the river
and our chances of finding an Otter were now slim. In fact the whole
walk was spoilt as several parties of foresters were cutting trees and
burning the felled ones making it difficult to see anything for the
smoke. We did persevere and spent some time looking out from the Lynx
watchpoint where we saw Red & Fallow Deer, immature Golden
Eagle, Black & Griffin Vultures, Grey Heron, White Wagtail,
Hawfinch, Crested & Long tailed Tit, Hoopoe and lots of Woodpigeons.
After here we opted for a cultural jaunt so we drove up to the
Santuario Virgen de la Cabeza were we had a coffee and Carol spent some
time looking around the impressive hill-top church. Around the grounds
we saw Hawfinch, Crested Larks, Serins and Black Redstarts.
We then started the drive back to the hotel and decided to stop along
the road where a Lynx had crossed the road in front of me to see if we
could find any. We spent about an hour with no luck but we did see a Sparrowhawk and adult Golden Eagle over the far ridge. Then as we were driving back to the hotel we briefly saw an Iberian Lynx at
the side of the road just before it disappeared into the undergrowth.
So ending our final day with another two sightings of the Lynx, making
a total of five animals seen on two of the three full days in the
Sierra de Andujar.
Wednesday January 27th :- It was a gorgeous sunny morning and after an easy breakfast we set off back towards Malaga on route we saw 2 Ravens, Common Buzzards and a few Crested Larks.
We had decided to return to the Lagunas de Fuente de Piedre to see if
we could locate the Lesser Flamingo for Geoff who was very keen to see
it. Sadly as we got closer to the coast the weather deteriorated
somewhat but we managed to miss most of the rains. The drive round the
lake produced 100+ Common Cranes at the side of the road and on some
smaller pools we found Coot, Shovelers, Teal, Mallard, Black winged Stilts and a Ringed Plover. At the main lagoon we scanned the 1000+ Greater Flamingos and Geoff found the Lesser Flamingo in the distance. Very sadly it disappeared behind an island but there
was no mistaking is crimson coloration and smaller size even at that
distance. It then started to rain so it was back into the car and we
continued on towards Malaga, and at the coast we spent a short time
at the Rio Guardalhorce Nature Reserve, which is right on the edge of
the Mediterranean Sea. There were striong winds blowing and the gulls
were heading north in their droves, with literally 100's of Western Yellow legged, Lesser Black backed & Black headed Gulls. Careful searching produced a few Mediteranean's Gulls and a single Audouin's Gull, plus out to sea lots of Balearic Shearwaters and Gannets were taking advantage of the stormy conditions. I had a long drive
north so I left Geoff, Carol & Bob at the airport 3 hours before
their flight was due to leave, which I believe Geoff used to his
advantage writing his own report featured here including the video footage of the Iberian Lynx.